Sport Football As Chris Nikou becomes FFA chairman, is there hope for real change?
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As Chris Nikou becomes FFA chairman, is there hope for real change?

FFA Football
Australian football has new leadership but will there be real change? Photo: Getty
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After more than two years of bitter infighting, the expanded Football Federation Australia congress has had its say, electing Victorian Chris Nikou as its new chairman.

Nikou triumphed at Monday’s FFA annual meeting after more than three hours of administrative procedure and voting.

He wasted no time in outlining his board’s immediate priority – a decision on the impending A-League expansion and whether it will be possible for the 2019-20 season or must be delayed until 2020-21.

“Expansion is the No.1 priority,” he said. “We need to have a proper and detailed briefing regarding the merits of each bid and, as soon as we get through that process, it will be the first order or business.

“I’d like to see it come in next season, that is my wish.

Chris Nikou
Chris Nikou (left) at FFA’s annual meeting. Photo: AAP

“It won’t be for a lack of trying but we need to do a measured analysis and decide what is in the best interests of the sport in this country.”

Nikou, an acquisitions senior partner with global legal firm K&L Gates, was elected in the first round of voting alongside women’s football pioneer Heather Reid and PricewaterhouseCoopers managing partner Joseph Carrozzi.

Former Soccer Australia head Remo Nogarotto was elected in the second round, beating former Labor senator Stephen Conroy in a tight contest.

Stephen Conroy
Stephen Conroy didn’t have the numbers. Photo Getty

Nikou, Reid, Carrozzi and Nogarotto join existing directors Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, a CBA senior executive, and Crispin Murray, an equities strategist. They still have a year to serve on existing terms.

Nikou, a member of departing chairman Steven Lowy’s board, said of his links to the former regime: “Those who were closest to the process know that I actually spent a lot of time trying to get the parties together to deal with reform.”

“I was on the Congress Review Working Group, as I understand it, at the request of the three major stakeholders [A-League clubs, professional players and member federations] because I was considered to be somebody willing to come to the table and hear their concerns and deal with them in good faith.”

Nikou said he would like to be judged on what he had done, not what people might suspect.

“My own personal view is the less we talk about the administrators, the better, let’s get back to football,” he said. “Today, we put a line in the sand and we move forward and get on with it.”

The election process was hotly contested and the losers were left licking wounds. Among them was Melbourne City vice-chairman Simon Pearce, who was deeply engaged in the process to drive corporate governance changes that ultimately ended the 15-year reign of first Frank and then Steven Lowy. He had backed Conroy and Linda Norquay (CFO of Lachlan Murdoch’s investment fund Illyria).

Both were defeated. It remains to be seen if either will be among the three appointees the new FFA board can elevate.

Pearce and his ally, Football Federation Victoria chairman Kimon Taliadoros, might have been left scratching their heads about the failures of Conroy and Norquay, but the success story of the night was Reid.

The custodian of Australia’s women’s football journey was hugely popular with the FFA congress, securing 90.78 per cent of the first-round vote. 

That represented a remarkable triumph for Reid, who was nominated by Professional Footballers Australia and supported across the FFA congress. The result is the icing on her career cake and cements the increasing status of women at the FFA, while also coming off the back of a remarkable rise in popularity of the Matildas.

Nikou and Reid now have the opportunity to form a lasting and impactful leadership partnership.

Both are veteran football administrators and deeply respected by colleagues who have worked closely with them.

#SokkahTwitter has been crying out for what they describe as “football people” to lead the FFA.

Their wish has been granted. All those involved will watch to see if a sport riddled with internal politics can unify under its new leadership.